The DNI Journal
Diversity Network Institute • 701 South Dobson Road • Suite 333 • (480) 649-2929
Fall 2005

 

Multiculturalism—A Paradigm Shift

by Paul D. Christiansen, Ph.D.

The challenge of moving from a mono, bi or polycultural workplace or classroom to a multicultural one can be successfully accomplished on a limited budget. Among the major keys for implementing multiculturalism lies in understanding what the term multiculturalism should mean. Multiculturalism is not the same as polyculturalism. It is far more than meaning many or being inclusive of all cultures. The Diversity Network Institute presents multiculturalism as a paradigm shift from the traditional view that multi means many and thus includes all people and cultures. Multiculturalism is viewed as a belief system that values people as individuals rather than as members of specific groups with an identifiable label. Multicultural is an adjective that describes the behaviors of a multicultural individual and multiculture is the environment or the background of a multicultural individual.

Once the need for this paradigm shift is recognized and accepted, then the second phase would be to develop a strategic plan that contains a mission statement that honors multiculturalism. This mission statement then needs to be placed into action by formulating various policies such as; disavowing discrimination based on external characteristics, that cultural diversity is enriching and vital to individuals and society and that all people can learn. Multiculturalism then serves as a foundational strategy for the development of multicultural staff development programs and curricula by using such resources as the Learning to Live without Labels seminar that will assist in establishing a multiculture—working and learning environment.

When the majority of staff members is focused on the same goals and has the same mental picture of a multicultural working and learning environment, the paradigm for multiculturalism can shift more rapidly.

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